Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 3168: Lieutenant Levi C. Bootes Colt Baby Dragoon Percussion Revolver

Auction Date: September 12, 2021

Historically Significant Lieutenant Levi C. Bootes Presentation Inscribed Colt Baby Dragoon Percussion Revolver with Extensive Research File

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $19,000 - $27,500

Historically Significant Lieutenant Levi C. Bootes Presentation Inscribed Colt Baby Dragoon Percussion Revolver with Extensive Research File

Manufacturer: Colt
Model: Baby Dragoon
Type: Revolver
Gauge: 31
Barrel: 5 inch octagon
Finish: blue/casehardened/silver
Grip: walnut
Item Views: 475
Item Interest: Average
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 104
Class: Antique

The "Baby Dragoon" or "1848 Pocket Pistol" was the direct predecessor to the iconic Colt's Model 1849 Pocket which was the most widely used Colt of the 19th century and was only manufactured in 1847 to 1850 with this particular revolver manufactured in 1848. Very few of the surviving Baby Dragoon revolvers are found in higher condition, and those with inscriptions and identified original owners are incredibly scarce. They are important evolutionary pieces between the Colt Paterson and the ever popular '49 Pocket. This revolver is especially significant given it was owned by and presentation inscribed for Levi Clark Bootes (1809-1896), a long serving U.S. military officer who fought for our country through nearly three decades of the most trying times in our nation's history, including leading men into battle at Antietam and Gettysburg during the bloodiest individual days in our military history. Colt expert R. L. Wilson noted in an included research letter that "The inscription was likely engraved at the Colt factory, and likely to have been done complimentary of Samuel Colt. It was Colt's practice to encourage military orders, and such an inscription is known to have been done at no charge through the offices of company founder and owner Samuel Colt. Evidence of this appears in the author's 'The Book of Colt Engraving' and 'Colt Engraving.'" Wilson considered the revolver worthy of publication and planned to include it in a new two-volume "The Book of Colt Firearms" in the early 2000s. An extensive research file with copies of original period documentation on his life and related secondary source material are included and provide a detailed biography. Bootes originally joined the Army as a private in F Company, U.S. Regiment of Mounted Riflemen, on June 19, 1846, shortly before the outbreak of the Mexican-American War and was shortly thereafter promoted to sergeant. The Mounted Riflemen, later renamed the 3rd Cavalry Regiment, was originally formed to protect settlers in the West, particularly along the Oregon Trail. During the Mexican-American War, he served with the 6th U.S. Infantry and was a brevet second lieutenant and later full second lieutenant fighting under the command of General Zachary Taylor and General Winfield Scott and fought at Molino Del Rey, Chapultepec (wounded), and Mexico City. The revolver was most likely presented to him upon his return to the states and carried with him thereafter. With the end of the war, he returned to the West and was promoted to first lieutenant on June 9, 1853. He was part of expeditions against the Mojave and Mormons in the West. At Fort Yuma in Arizona, he was promoted to captain in June 1860 as the threat of Civil War loomed on the horizon. He remained in service to his country during the war serving with the 1st and 6th U.S. Infantry. He received citations and brevets for action at Malvern Hill (brevet major July 1, 1862), Fredericksburg (brevet lieutenant colonel December 13, 1862), and was wounded at both the historic and bloody battles of Antietam and Gettysburg. At the latter battle, he led his regiment during the fighting at Little Round Top and near the famous Bloody Wheatfield. The carnage in that field of battle led to 6,000 men killed, wounded, and missing. Bootes led five companies of the 6th U.S. Infantry in the 1st Brigade of the 2nd Division of Major General George Sykes' Fifth Army Corps. The 2nd Division lost 165 killed, 800 wounded, and 65 missing. As a result of Bootes' gallantry in leading his men in that gruesome battle, he was promoted to major and also brevetted as a colonel. He was provost marshall for the New York 2nd and 3rd districts at the end of the war and received a further brevet promotion to brigadier general in thanks for his meritorious service. His wounds, the end of the fighting, and malaria and gastric infections did not end his service to his country. He transferred to the 16th U.S. Infantry in 1866 and then the 20th U.S. Infantry in late 1870 before transferring again to the 25th U.S. Infantry where he served as lieutenant colonel from January 1, 1871 to October 1874 when he finally retired after serving his country faithfully for nearly three decades. The "Journal of the Military Service Institution of the United States" in 1911 recorded him as "the terror of the foot-soldier" due to his long stride and indicated he preferred to lead on foot. His eldest son, Samuel B. Bootes (1859-1909) followed his father's example and served as a captain in the Spanish-American War and subsequent Philippine-American War and died in the service of his country in Manila. The revolver has a brass cone front sight, "{ADDRESS SAML COLT/NEW-YORK CITY}" on top of the barrel, short frame pins, "COLTS/PATENT" in tiny letters on the left side of the frame, cupped cylinder arbor pin for use when loading the cylinder since this model did not feature a loading lever, no cleaning threads on the pin which is correct for the later Baby Dragoons, five-shot cylinder with round stops and the Texas Ranger roll-scene, squareback trigger guard bow, correct straight mainspring, "Slim Jim" grip profile and corresponding thin shoulders on the back strap, and all-matching serial numbers. It is finished blue for the barrel and cylinder, casehardened for the hammer and frame, and silver plating on the grip frame. The grip is varnished walnut. Provenance: The Curt McClymond Collection

Rating Definition:

Fine with 25% original blue and casehardened finishes blended with crisp gray dark patina on the iron and 90% plus of the original silver plating showing some slight loss and attractive aged patina overall. The safety pin on the cylinder was flattened. The markings, including the inscription and cylinder scene, remain exceptionally crisp. There are some dings on the cylinder and barrel along with some hammering marks on the butt. The frame also has some uneven edges below the cylinder. The grip is very fine aside from the noted hammering dents and retains most of the original varnish finish and exhibit minor lower edge wear. Mechanically fine. As Wilson wrote, "Serial No. 4233 is an important example of the Colt Baby Dragoon Pocket Model Revolver, in fine condition, and with numerous desirable features. The original inscription attests to the history of the revolver, having been used in service by Lt. Levi Clark Bootes. . .No. 42333, is a supremely significant American historical Frontier firearm, well worthy of the most important museum or private arms collection."

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